A History of Walton Park Cemetery

Walton Park Cemetery in Liverpool, sometimes know as Rice Lane Cemetery, opened in 1856 but has now been closed to new burials for nearly seventy years.

A parochial cemetery, it was opened by the Liverpool Parish for the interment of bodies at the expense of the church. Liverpool was growing at a rapid place and with the authorities not wanting burials in residential areas, the parochial cemetery at St Martins in the Fields (between Silvester and Blenheim Streets in Vauxhall) was no longer suitable.

Being a parochial cemetery, those interred tended to be from some of Liverpool’s poorest backgrounds. Burial registers make for heartbreaking reading. Of the nine people interred on 3rd June 1866, for instance, five had died in the workhouse and another in an industrial school.

The most notable person buried in Walton Park Cemetery is Robert Tressell, author of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. A signwriter, he completed the book whilst living in Sussex in 1910 but after being rejected by three publishers, decided to emigrate to Canada. However before being able to sail from Liverpool he contracted tuberculosis and died at the Royal Liverpool Infirmary on 3rd February 1911.

Tressell’s real name was Robert Noonan and he was buried along with twelve others in a paupers grave in Walton Park Cemetery. Thanks to the efforts of his daughter Kathleen, the book was finally published in 1914 but the grave remained undiscovered until 1970. A memorial stone was placed there in 1977 following fundraising by trade union councils in Liverpool and Hastings.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has identified 24 soldiers who have been buried there; eighteen from World War I and six from World War II. In November 2016 new headstones were added to the graves of eleven seamen who were killed in World War II whilst serving with the Dutch Merchant Navy, along with one of a British Merchant Navy sailor. The men were all Indonesian Muslims and their graves were rededicated with new headstones in a ceremony attended by the Lord Mayor and representatives from the Dutch Embassy and Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Walton Park Cemetery continues to be owned by the Parish of Liverpool, although the Rice Lane Community Association leases the site and part of it is now an urban farm. The cemetery remains open to the public and history trail leaflets are available for anyone who visits.

Although the cemetery has long closed to burials, it is still possible to renovate headstones or erect new ones on existing grave plots. There are size limits though for paupers graves. If you have any loved ones buried in this cemetery and are considering any renewing or erecting a memorial there, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements.

 

John Weightman’s Municipal Buildings, Liverpool

At the beginning of February 2017 it was confirmed that a Singapore based hotel developer was purchasing Municipal Buildings, Liverpool City Council’s administrative headquarters since the 1860s.

The buildings were the last major works of Borough Surveyor John Weightman, who retired whilst they were being constructed. Weightman was born in London in 1798 and took up his post in Liverpool in 1848, having been working on the Grand Junction Railway, which connected the town with Birmingham. His appointment caused considerable debate as his salary of £1,000 a year was £300 more than the man he succeeded, Joseph Franklin.

Weightman’s first major project in the 1850s saw him design a new bridewell, fire station and magistrates court. All these buildings still stand today although they are no longer used for their original purpose. At the end of the decade he designed the buildings that we now know as Central Library and World Museum in William Brown Street. When what was then the free library opened in 1860 Weightman was one of the main guests, attending the event in the mayor’s chariot.

When work started at the beginning of the 1860s on Municipal Buildings, Liverpool Corporation’s staff numbers were increasing rapidly. The three storey building has a lead roof and clock tower with five bells, where sixteen sandstone figures represent the arts, science and industry of Liverpool. Weightman retired in 1865, leaving his successor Mr   E. R. Robson to oversee the completion and make some tweaks to the design of a building described by the Liverpool Mercury as ‘second only to St George’s Hall in the town in terms of architectural merit.’Municipal Buildings

The buildings were almost destroyed before they were completed. In 1867 two workmen were seriously injured during a gas explosion as they put the finishing touches to the offices of the Inspector of Public Nuisances. Then soon after they opened, teenager William Adams was caught scratching a wall with a knife in March 1868. He was charged with Wantonly Defacing a Public Building and fined ten shillings.

Although he had retired from his position, Weightman remained in local government as an alderman and he also served as a justice of the peace. He remained living at his home in 39 Hope Street where he passed away in August 1883, three months after his wife had died. Weightman was buried in Toxteth Park Cemetery. However his gravestone is today laid down for health and safety reasons.